Losing a cat – how to deal with your pet going across the rainbow bridge?

Losing your cat friend is always a tough experience, regardless of how well we prepare for it.  The average span of a cat’s life is between 14 and 17 years, so many fluffy friends grow up with their Guardians from their childhood or accompanies them through their adult life. Sharing a space for that long creates a very strong bond and losing that bond is painful. Today, on All Soul’s Day, we’re remembering cats who have already passed the rainbow bridge and we’re sharing with you, dear fabCats, our own feelings on the tough subject of dealing with the loss of a beloved pet. 

Saying goodbye to a cat

As cat Guardians we would love for them to always stay the healthiest, most energetic versions of themselves. Unfortunately, every life comes to an end and every cat Guardian will have to say goodbye to their cat friend at some point. It’s hard to prepare for it, even if we have a senior cat or a terminally ill cat at home. It’s even harder if their passing comes completely unexpected. 

Having experienced losing first our Luis, who we helped fight a serious illness for over a year, and then Figo, who passed away unexpectedly and whom we haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to, our first tip for you, fabCats, is to allow yourself to grieve. Cats are members of our families and feeling pain after losing them is completely normal. Don’t feel embarrassed by it and don’t let anyone tell you it’s “just a cat” and there’s nothing to cry about. Every loss of a beloved pet is important and we should be able to live through this on our terms. 

Our goodbye with Luis

Luis was our first cat, our beloved, typical indoor cat and the inspiration behind the myKotty brand. Losing him was tough because we’ve been fighting for his health for over a year at that point. And most of the time it was a daily struggle (giving him pills, shots, drips, taking his temperature, countless vet visits, even feeding through a tube to his mouth, which became necessary at one point). That time was extremely stressful for us and it took a lot of care and work into saving Luis, which drained us physically and mentally. Losing Luis was very sad, but we knew we needed to let him go and that’s what happened – our vet didn’t see any possibilities of helping him any further and Luis passed away in our arms. We said goodbye to him and that – in all this tragedy –  was very important to us. 

Our goodbye with Figo

Figo and Luis were a purrfect duet and Figo really felt the loss of his friend. Unfortunately, shortly after, he started getting sick too. It was a hidden heart condition which didn’t show any symptoms for years. It was another shock for us, as we thought of Figo as indestructible – a true tiger. But for him, everything came too fast – Figo passed away suddenly, in a hospital, and we didn’t even get the chance to see him and say goodbye. Somehow we believed, like many cat Guardians, that Figo would always be with us. His passing was traumatic, sudden and with no farewell. It was a shock and with this loss, it’s still hard to come to terms with. And it made it even more difficult to know that there were two young cat rascals at home and Figo just started getting along with them very well. 

Emotions after losing a pet

Sadness, sorrow, shock, loss, emptiness, sometimes anger and feeling helpless – having an emotional response after losing a beloved cat is a completely normal part of living with animals. Pet Guardians often hear that it’s “just an animal”, “no need to cry”, “you can take another one”, but it doesn’t work that way – another cat won’t substitute the friend you’ve lost and often Carers are just not ready for a second cat. Grieving a cat should be as natural as grieving a loss of someone close to you and for us, it’s worth going through it all. 

We let ourselves go through both of the losses, but we also allowed ourselves to hope that both Luis and Figo are now running around in the meadows and forests on the other side of the rainbow bridge, happy and full of energy. We feel like both our cats are still with us. We’ll never forget them and we often think about them. Even now, looking at our boys: Kitku Yoda and Teddy, we catch ourselves seeing similarities in their behaviour and things Figo and Luis used to do. It feels nice and it’s like a bandage for our wounded hearts. 

How to deal with a cat crossing the rainbow bridge? 

Every loss is different and our experiences may not be the same as for other cat Guardians. The emotions that come along with losing a cat can vary, depending on the way the cat passed away, if you, as cat Carers, had time to say goodbye to them, or even if their death was one of the scenarios you prepared for because of a long term illness or was it an accident, completely unexpected. 

When your pet does cross the rainbow bridge, it’s worth thinking about a way of keeping their memory alive – in Poland, the law prohibits burying pets in places that are not specifically designed for it (i.e. in your own garden), but we do know that it does happen often anyway and we’re not here to judge. However, there is a legal alternative for leaving your pet at the vet clinic – the number of pet cemeteries is growing and you can visit your pet’s grave at any time. 

Let’s also remember that any sort of keepsake left behind from your time with your cat can help you feel like the kitty is still with you – it helps us remember them as a happy friend and member of your hooman-cat family. For us, the most precious keepsakes of Luis and Figo are: Luis’ paw prints on a piece of paper and a strand of hair from Figo that we keep safe in a drawer. 

Is it time for another cat?

Taking a new cat under your roof soon after losing the previous one can be quite the obvious way of filling the void for many cat Guardians, but also a way of providing your other cat – if you have one – with company they need and miss. Unfortunately, not all cat Carers are ready for it right away and the decision to take another cat in shouldn’t be rushed – it’s good to give yourself some time and make sure you’ll be able to provide your new cat as much attention as they deserve when you are ready. If you have more cats at home, they are hurting after losing their friend too – it’s worth talking the matter over with a behaviourist so that you don’t make mistakes, don’t disrupt the life of your current cat group, but also to make sure you’re making it easier for your pets to accept the loss of their friend at the right time. 

An alternative to taking a new cat under your roof can also be taking care of some cats in need as a foster home or working as a volunteer in a charity foundation or a shelter. Being with cats in that way, with “no strings attached” lets you work through some emotions and opens you up to new experiences, making it easier to work through your grief. 

We took Teddy and Kitku Yoda a little bit too early – we’ve watched them get along nicely with Figo and observed as Figo stopped being so mopey after losing his friend Luis, which made us happy with the decision we made. But then Figo passed away quite suddenly, disrupting our period of getting used to the young kitties and it took us longer to get to know them as a duet of their own as a result. Today, we can’t imagine living without them and we remember Luis and Figo with lots of love. 

No rush

Though taking a new cat home or working with cats after losing your beloved pet might work for some, other cat Carers need more time and remember, fabCats – both scenarios are equally ok. It’s simply important to not shut yourself out from the world and emotions, to let yourself grieve and get in terms with your loss. Sometimes you might need some help from a psychologist – that’s ok too! If you feel the need to talk about your cat, share their photos or, on the contrary, completely cut yourself out of the cat world, you have the right to do so. Go through your grieving period on your own terms and remember – although your beloved pet’s passing will always seem like it happened too early, the memories of them and the hope that they’re having a good life on the other side of the rainbow bridge will stay with you forever. 

We hope that such difficult topic will also be interesting for you. We wanted to share this article with you, as for us, grieving your pets is a very important topic that’s not often touched on. If you want to write to us about your feelings, tell a story of your cat who’s gone or simply share an emote that shows how you feel, go ahead and use the comments section. It’s a safe space for you, fabCats. 

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